‘Waitress’ serves up slice of happiness

Bailey McCall as Jenna, Kennedy Salters as Becky, and Gabriella Marzetta as Dawn in “Waitress.” (Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel)

Take one small town girl who has dreams bigger than working in Joe’s Pie Diner.

Add in two best friends — who would do anything to help make that happen — as the comic relief.

And a dash of a failing marriage resulting in an unexpected pregnancy.

Stir in a little drama with a married man.

Let it rest for more than two hours — with a 20-minute intermission.

What you have is a recipe for success.

And boy, is it sweet.

These are some of the elements found in the touring production of “Waitress,” which opened at Popejoy Hall on Thursday night. The musical took the audience through a journey of laughter and pain.

“Waitress” is inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 film of the same name.

It tells the story of Jenna Hunterson, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage with her husband Earl.

When Jenna unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she begins an affair with her doctor, Dr. Jim Pomatter.

A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness.

But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

The book is by Jessie Nelson and original music from Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles. (Bareilles was on top of her game when she wrote for this one.)

The original production premiered at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It debuted on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in April 2016.

In 2017, a national tour began.

And earlier this year, the musical opened in London’s West End.

It is scheduled to close on Broadway on Jan. 5, with 1,544 regular performances.

The touring production packs a punch with talent.

Take Jenna, played by Bailey McCall, who manages to pull you into her journey of finding happiness — true happiness, not just happy enough.

McCall was able to convey the joy and pain of life’s many obstacles.

Yet, she has her conscious to help be her guide. After starting the affair with Dr. Pomatter, it’s fun at first, yet realizes she needs to end it. This point showcases Jenna’s growth as a person and blazes a new path for her.

McCall isn’t the only one to shine.

As her fellow waitresses, both Kennedy Salters as Becky and Gabriella Marzetta as Dawn bring plenty of sass and laughs.

Becky is an “I’ll speak my mind” kind of woman. With the attitude Salters brought to the role, Becky stole plenty of scenes.

Dawn is the “shy and quirky” type, who longs for a true love. Marzetta’s so infectious and endearing as Dawn, that she could easily teach a master’s class. She lands the one-liners with ease, which put smiles on the audience’s faces. The push and pull between she and Salters is pure magic.

Let us not forget the men in the production.

David Socolar plays Dr. Pomatter, who gives into temptation, all while knowing it’s wrong. Still, like Jenna, he’s looking for a slice of happiness. His scenes of seduction with Jenna are chock-full of passion and laughs. They make a fantastic duo.

Then there’s Jake Mills, who plays Cal, the cook at Joe’s Pie Diner. Mills has found a perfect way to round out his character, especially when he fills the space with no lines. It adds dimension and flow. Not to mention his tryst with Salters’ Becky.

Of course, there’s Clayton Howe, who plays Jenna’s physically and mentally abusive husband. Howe did such a good job and being bad that he left a bad taste in my mouth. It takes a great actor to break bad.

It would be wrong not to mention Brian Lundy as Ogie. As Dawn’s love interest, Lundy was able to step up to the plate and match Marzetta in the laugh department. Both of the quirky characters showed exactly why they are the perfect match.

Through it all, each character was on a quest for happiness — and settling isn’t an option.

The Broadway musical runs for five more performances and it’s surely not one to be missed.

“Waitress” is a slice of life that is worth every high and low.

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